Saturday, June 23, 2012

The days will be getting shorter...

...were the words my father used to say like clockwork every June 21st, the first day of day of summer. It was almost as if he were saying: "don't ever get too happy, it will all end soon enough."

In my many childless adult years, summer never meant much to me, it was mostly a time to try to stay cool. I'll never forget the summer of 1995 when Chicagoans dropped by the score because of the record heat. I actually had friends in Europe contact me to see if I was still alive. On perhaps the hottest day of that year, I finally decided to install an air conditioner from an old apartment once shared with my ex-wife. The unit fit perfectly in the narrow windows of the old place, but took some serious finagling to fit into the much wider windows of the new place. After several sweat filled hours of building supports and baffles to get the thing to fit, I finally sat down to reap the benefits of my work. I plugged the thing in, turned it on, and it immediately blew a fuse, the contraption drew too much power from the circuits of the new place. The rest of that day was spent in a theater watching bad movies.

All that changed since my boy was born eleven years ago. Now summer means a break from the routine of the rest of the year. No more worrying about school nights and getting the kids to bed early. No lunches to make in the morning, except my own. It's the time of year when things slow down and there's precious time to take a welcome account of life outside of work. 

In recent years I've discovered that there's nothing more beautiful than a summer evening, especially the smell of a cool summer breeze, lightning bugs, the beautiful light and long shadows cast by the 8 o'clock sun, trips to Dairy Star to get ice cream, going to the beach with the kids, going up to Wisconsin for a brief getaway, the sound of cicadas, and most of all of course, baseball. This is the time of the year when the all too short Little League seasons are beginning to draw to a close. Playoffs will be starting in a few weeks and then it will be over for the majority of kids who will go on their vacations and relax for the rest of their summer. Other kids who are lucky enough to make the traveling teams will get to keep playing in tournaments, and the really lucky (and talented) ones will get to go to the Little League World Series in the fall.

My son just tried out for one of those teams. Neither he nor I want the season to end in mid-July. Baseball has brought the two of us together more than anything else. While my wife was pregnant with him, I dreamed of the day when I'd be playing catch with my son. It's the quintessential American father-son activity; although I don't know of any, no doubt there are Norman Rockwell paintings devoted to the subject. My European dad and I never played catch with a baseball, but did plenty of the equivalent with a soccer ball. As I haven't been able to pass along the love of soccer to my own son, baseball is the bridge between a grandfather and the grandson he only knew for one year.

Regardless of his making the team, my boy and I will continue to play catch in the park, and work on his pitching, fielding and hitting skills (as well as mine), for as long as it's still reasonably warm and light outside after I get home from work. However this time of year and my father's annual pronouncement always remind me of the fact that this wonderful time of my life won't last forever. When he began Little League a few years ago, my friends with older children told me to cherish these days, which I do. My boy will soon be a teenager, and if he does manage to maintain his love of baseball, he'll no doubt be more interested in playing it with his friends than with his old man. The wonderful yet melancholy cycle of life goes on.

That's why I'm doing everything in my power do delay the inevitable.  I'm trying to get my five year old daughter to fall in love with the game.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Perhaps your daughter will love baseball as you and your son do. Then again, perhaps your daughter will reject it as mine did almost 40 years ago. When the day comes that you are no longer the center of your son's universe don't fret though. He will come come back to you in time. That's a thought to keep and look forward to.